Belfast Telegraph

New plan to target anti-social tenants

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Social housing tenants who engage in anti-social behaviour are to get a ‘yellow card’ under tough new plans unveiled by the Social Development Minister.

Nelson McCausland told the Assembly he wants to introduce legislation modelled on the Scottish form of demoted tenancy to help housing associations deal with householders who flout the law. “This yellow card system will send a strong message to tenants who do not act in an appropriate way,” the minister said.

In Northern Ireland, the Housing Executive has a well-developed system for tackling anti-social behaviour. However, there is more limited evidence of effective practice within the housing association movement.

Mr McCausland said departmental officials had been liaising closely with housing associations and hoped to set up a system similar to the Short Scottish Secure Tenancy (SSST) — a short term or probationary tenancy agreement which can be given to tenants by a council, housing association or housing co-op.

Those with SSSTs in Scotland can be evicted more easily than someone with a full tenancy.

The new plans are among a range of proposals included in Northern Ireland's first housing strategy which has been put out to public consultation.

Other initiatives include the establishment of a housing supply forum that will bring together key stakeholders to develop practical solutions; the provision of an interest free loan to promote the development of affordable homes and the commission of a fundamental review of how social housing is allocated.

The new strategy will cover a five year period until 2017.

Mr McCausland added: “The proposals set out milestones for the next five years and a vision focused on ensuring access to good quality housing at a reasonable cost.

“Of course, facing the future means facing the realities of economic recovery, creating employment and regenerating our most deprived and neglected communities and the future of housing here has a significant role to play.

“We need to create the right conditions to grow a sustainable housing market, provide support for individuals and families and get the structures in place that will deliver for future generations.

“We know that for every 10 jobs created through social housing programme, seven will be sustained elsewhere. We know that having a place to call home helps build a safe, healthy and prosperous society. And we know that changes coming as a result of welfare reform will present further challenges ahead.

“This housing strategy is about delivering a programme for the next five years to get Northern Ireland building, working and living in housing and best meets their needs, is affordable and makes best use of the budgets and assets we have at our disposal.”

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey who chairs Stormont's social development committee welcomed the housing strategy but said it was incredible that one did not already exist.

The Minister will publish his final action plan early in 2013.

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